Industry Veterans Share Trade Show Tips

Whether it’s getting a look at new products or networking with peers, the opportunities at a trade show are plentiful. Here’s how to take full advantage.

Industry Veterans Share Trade Show Tips

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Attending a trade show can provide a welcome break from the daily routine, but anyone who mistakes a trade show for a vacation isn’t reaping its full benefits. Trade shows offer a wide range of resources, from new products and cutting-edge technology to educational seminars and networking opportunities.

“The trade shows are just an amazing opportunity to network with people in our industry and to be able to find the latest and greatest,” says Heather Morehouse, president of Davids Hydro Vac in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

As you’re looking ahead to trade shows you might attend in the coming months, consider these tips to get the most value out of them.

Roaming the floor

Maneuvering through the hundreds of displays and vendor booths on the expo floor can be mind-boggling and exhausting. 

“It is overwhelming because there are so many vendors and sometimes they’re all spread out,” Morehouse says.

Determining the best method to hit the trade show floor takes some planning.

“It’s really just about doing your homework beforehand,” Morehouse says.

She starts with a general idea of the products and services she’s interested in and a list of vendors exhibiting at the show. With a little online research, she can narrow down the list to the key vendors she wants to visit and map out the day. 

“A lot of the shows are so big you’ve got to have a plan,” she says.

Downloading the trade show’s app can be helpful.

“Not only does it have a map, but a really great vendor list,” Morehouse says. “You can find what you’re looking for. They usually have things categorized, so the app is really easy to use.”

Michael Flaherty says he’ll leave the app for the younger generation. The owner of Advanced Pollution Control Corporation in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, has 42 years of experience in the industry, and he’s accustomed to reading through the trade show program and circling the seminars and demos he wants to attend. Each day, he’ll find a couple of topics that will help him better understand how to run the business or deal with specific situations.

“I go to see the equipment, but equally, I go to get some new information, like on confined spaces or hauling materials,” he says.

Flaherty is always on the lookout for ingenious ideas that will improve operations or solve problems in the field, and he says the formal and informal settings of trade shows are perfect for giving and receiving advice.

Networking opportunities

Flaherty says he always books a hotel close to the convention center. But it’s not simply because of the convenience of staying within walking distance. Nearby hotels are also rich in casual networking opportunities.

“People congregate at the hotels closest to the convention center,” Flaherty says. “You might talk to some guy from Oregon who has the same type of trucks as you, and you might find another type of business complementary to your business you’re doing. You learn by talking to people.”

Parties, demos, and events also provide a good environment for networking, Morehouse says.

“We’re such a specialized niche in our industry. It’s a really good opportunity for our employees to network with the people who do the same type of work that they do because there’s not a lot of hydroexcavation companies,” she says.

Morehouse loads up on business cards, brochures, and Davids Hydro Vac T-shirts and hats when she hits a trade show to capitalize on the give-and-take atmosphere. In some instances, she’ll ask a vendor to scan her name badge and get in touch with her after the show.

Flaherty recommends picking up brochures and business cards and tucking them into the handy bags provided by vendors.

“Most of the time when I get back to work — it might be a month later — but I’ll look at the information I got,” he says.

Saving time

“What’s nice about a show is its one-stop shopping,” Flaherty says.

Manufacturers from across the U.S. as well as outside the country are on site, saving him the time and expense of traveling to multiple manufacturing facilities. Along with trucks and other heavy equipment are safety products, technology services, promotional materials, and various other industry-specific items.

“We’ve actually found some really good services at trade shows,” Morehouse says. “It isn’t just about the equipment; it’s about being able to find new products that are going to help support your equipment.”

Three days at a trade show saves her hours of time on the internet looking for what the company needs, Morehouse says.

“We like going to the trade shows because it’s everything in one spot. They’ve done all the research for the industry, and they put all these people together for us,” she says.

“You might come back with a different approach or a different angle,” Flaherty says.


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